By Jessica Howell, Programme and Advocacy Officer, Catholic Relief Services
A wizened man whose mirthful eyes suggest more mischief than age, Ariz smirks when asked how old he is. “More than 50,” he said, to the chuckles of his friends and family standing nearby.
There hasn’t been a lot to smile about lately though. The floods that tore through his village in southern Pakistan last summer stole much from Ariz – his land, his livestock, and most painfully, his son, Nazeef, who was to be married in one month. “I miss him very much.”
On the day the floods came, Ariz said, “It was a panic.” People ran away, trying to save themselves and their children. And although the water is now gone, the village is unrecognizable … in fact, it’s nonexistent. Tonnes and tonnes of sand from the river, left behind when the waters receded, has buried what wasn’t washed away. To return to the spot where his home once stood, Ariz finds himself standing five feet above where the ground used to be. The once fertile area now looks like a desolate moonscape – dusty, colorless, and arid. And it’s not just homes that were buried: Ariz’ fields, first under water, are now under sand, and so he can’t plant his rice and wheat crop. Without the fields, there is no food and no way to generate income. The seven family members who live with Ariz depend on him for survival.
Although he is nervous about the future and grieving the loss of his son, Ariz is far from hopeless. He cites the construction of the transitional shelter he now lives in as a source of hope and stability. “We are very happy to have a home,” he says. “It’s so good for the children.”
Catholic Relief Services (CRS is a Caritas member operational in Pakistan supported by the wider confederation) came to Ariz’ village after the floods with the materials to build transitional shelters. Each family received bamboo, plastic sheeting, palm mats, and tools … and working together, Ariz and his community members constructed 86 new shelters in the village. The difference the shelters make is considerable. “After the floods, we slept outside for one month,” said Ariz. Below the open sky, Ariz and his family were frightened and insecure.
Although there is still much work to be done, Ariz knows he and his family are moving in the right direction. With the shelter, he said, “Now we feel very safe.”